Archive for the 'Politics' Category

Obama’s Breach of Royal Protocol

At last night’s state dinner held at Buckingham Palace, President Obama inadvertently broke Royal Protocol whilst he made the loyal toast to Her Majesty The Queen.

Click to watch the video from BBC News.

So, what went wrong? After calling for the guests to stand, Mr Obama said “To Her Majesty The Queen”. If he had stopped here, this would be correct(ish). In Britain, the loyal toast is just ‘The Queen’. There is no ‘to’ preposition. This is what set off the orchestra from the Scotch Guards into playing the British national anthem, as they would be used to loyal toasts ending there. However, Mr. Obama chose to extend the toast and say a few more words, which (however well intentioned) is breaking Royal protocol.

It was quite nice to have the national anthem underscoring the rest of his toast, but normally one stands in respectful silence whilst it plays. Her Majesty, being polite and worldly, thanked Mr. Obama for his kind words and did not say anything. It would have been rude to do so.

What Mr. Obama needs to learn from this hiccough is that a toast is not a speech.

William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner 

The Protocol of Flags

FlagsFlags: we raise them in pride and celebration, lower them in sadness and to commemorate death, burn or destroy them in anger and protest.  There is great emotion associated with this one symbol as very aptly noted by the Chief Protocol Officer for Toronto, Canada.

For several months now, my colleague William Hanson has been urging me to write something for the blog on the subject of flags. On the face of it, this was a simple request and should not have presented any difficulties as I can fairly easily recite the generally accepted guidelines for displaying flags and have often given advice in the matter (sometimes by invitation, other times not).

However, I felt that our readers expected more than mere rote and I wanted a different slant and in the process, inadvertently opened a can of worms (a modern metaphorical extension of Pandora’s Box). My research (if that is not too grand a term) included personal observation and study on three continents and many countries and eventually led to a meeting with the Lead Ceremonials Officer for the US State Department. The USA is the only country that has statute law dealing with flying or displaying its national flag (Title 36, Chapter 1).

The display of national flags is a very sensitive issue. Done correctly, you do honour to your own flag and country and to your international visitors.  Done incorrectly and you may create ill-will and animosity and perhaps even an international incident as happened on 18 October 1992 when a US Marine Corps colour guard displayed the Canadian flag upside down at a World Series (baseball) game in the USA.  The fault wasn’t intentional nor was it through ignorance, it was a mere technical glitch and the Marine had no choice but to carry on with the ceremony.  Nevertheless, it required the intervention of the President of the United States to apologise. He requested the opportunity to make amends by sending another Marine Corps colour guard to Canada to carry the Canadian flag in the following World Series game and in an unprecedented move, requested that a Royal Canadian Mounted Police colour guard carry the American flag. All was forgiven.

It seems that a thorough knowledge of flag protocol and etiquette, combined with a certain panache, allows one to flaunt the rules and get away with it, rather like a gentleman who tweaks his dinner suit (“tuxedo” in America) with a discreetly patterned bowtie rather than the standard black barathea silk version. Knowing the rules and flaunting them with style is entirely different from blundering through in ignorance.

Amongst the new twists I have observed is a display of repeating flag patterns. This display features the repetition of the flags starting with the host country’s flag on the left, then the guest nations in alphabetical order in the host country’s language, repeated any number of times across the podium or along the line and ending with the host country.  For example, host country is the USA, guest nations are Canada and Mexico: the flags are displayed USA – Canada – Mexico, repeat, repeat, repeat – USA (the host country’s flag parenthetically enclosing the entire display any time there are five or more flags displayed). This is appropriate for decoration of a room, political briefings or announcements, diplomatic and consular events and also as a background for photo opportunities.  However, one litigator I spoke with advises against trying this set-up in a court room and then trying to explain it to the judge.

In Toronto, a colourful display of flags adjacent to the city hall features 18 flag poles arranged in three rows of six poles. No reference exists for flying flags in such a configuration and only after the designers and architects had installed the poles was the protocol office consulted.  The result is a magnificent display of the Canadian, provincial and territorial flags as well as the City of Toronto flag and multiple Canadian flags included to make up the number. The provincial flags are flown in order according to when each province joined confederation, however this is not immediately clear nor, I suggest, particularly important in this configuration. It is fully inclusive and because there is no protocol or precedent for such a display, no rules have been broken and no-one could possibly take offence.

While it is considered courteous and gracious to display an international visitor’s national flag on special occasions or during brief visits, be aware of the do’s and don’ts of flying your own national flag outside your home country, at your vacation home abroad, for example. It is correct to fly it on your own national holiday but incorrect to fly it year-round without regard or deference to the flag of your host country. Host country flags always take precedence. (I am referring to private property, not embassies or government buildings.) Never fly two national flags on the same single staff flag pole although rules exist for displaying multiple national flags on a nautical (yard-arm) pole with the gaff being the point of honour.

It is correct to raise your flags in the morning and lower them at sunset.  Flags are hoisted briskly, but lowered slowly and should never touch the ground. If flags are to be left flying overnight, it is correct to illuminate them. Soiled or tattered flags should not be displayed.  Soiled flags should be washed or dry-cleaned and tattered flags destroyed in a respectful manner – burning is suggested.  Americans, especially, are very sensitive about issues surrounding their flag and old, disused or tattered flags may be delivered to any branch of the American Legion for appropriate disposal. Americans even specify the correct way to fold their flag while other nations simply fold theirs in a neat fashion ready for next use.

Finally, “half-mast” is only an expression. When flying a flag at half-mast (on land, technically “half-staff”) it is first raised to the top of the staff and then slowly lowered a distance equal to the flag’s length (the “fly”, its longest side).  The expression half-mast originated on ships where lowering the flag by a distance equivalent to its length brought the flag to the half-way point on the mast.  It is incorrect, however, to lower the flag half-way down a flag pole although this rule is almost always observed in the breach, even on government buildings, and is so widely practised that it is commonly accepted and expected to lower the flag to the mid-point. However, purists take note.

Do you find all this interesting? Stay alert to the issues as you go about your daily routines and you will see flags from a new perspective. Do not hesitate to encourage businesses you patronise to improve their standards; banks, especially, have been guilty of continuing to fly flags well beyond their useful life.

John Robertson
Tutor, The English Manner

UK Leaders’ Debate No. 3: The Last Word

The last of the three UK leaders’ debates was always going to be about policy rather than performance. Both the politicians and the audience had got used to the format of these new debates and so, thankfully, we could all look past the smoke and mirrors and focus on what the parties were offering.

That said, the chairman of IPOS Mori said yesterday that a large majority of people do make their mind up as to whom to vote for based on style rather than substance: a reflection perhaps on the shallow times in which we now live.

So on that basis, here is my take on the performance and protocol from the final UK leaders’ debate.

The first gentleman we see is the chairman, David Dimbleby, who handled the proceedings much better than Messers Boulton and Stewart. However, Dimbleby had his jacket fastened incorrectly and it may be appropriate to just recap the rules when it comes to suit jacket buttons. If it is a three-button suit, just the middle button; if it is a two-button suit, just the top.

If the ties were competing last night, David Cameron’s would have won. It was a block colour (a strong blue – probably a conscious metaphor on his part) and worked well when set against the lurid pink and orange backdrop. A bold and strong colour always works best – power dressing: slightly retro, but in this case it worked. Nick Clegg’s orange number wasn’t working for me (although he had the better knot of the three leaders). In my opinion, orange and green ties never work. Gordon Brown’s tie was a muted purple with fine dots, and this would have been okay for day-to-day business but for such an important event, I did think that he (and Clegg) could have found about a thousand better ties to wear.

When the debate started, Clegg called his opponents by their full name ‘David Cameron and Gordon Brown’, there was no faux-chumminess here, like there was in the first debate. Nick Clegg probably used this tactic to separate himself from the others.

David Cameron was the first person to use an audience member’s Christian name, and it became obvious that he was emulating the tactic used by his Liberal rival from the first debate of looking directly into camera to address the audience at home, rather than in the chamber. Clegg did the same thing too, but used his hands much more, moving them towards the camera, drawing us into his way of thinking.

Language-wise, Gordon Brown used much more ministerial language, rather than the other two who went for more down-to-earth speech. Brown often used imperatives, such as ‘let’s be clear’, before addressing a point. This is something similar to what Tony Blair did during his premiership: he was very fond of saying ‘look’ before he addressed a question – but in the latter’s case it was often seen as patronising the audience or questioner.

Linguistically, Clegg used a trick of providing a layman’s explanation of some of the more complicated economic jargon. He told us “capital gains – that’s income to you and me”, this puts him on the level of the audience, a very clever tactic.

Where I felt he did slip us was his determination to address the camera. He would switch a bit too quickly from replying to the questioner from the audience to looking down the camera to the home audience. He did this a lot and it began to look phoney. Clegg also fell down during the economic part of the debate – he started to get a bit hot under the collar and this showed on his face.

Cameron used a minor expletive (‘damn’) to express one particular point; this did add emphasis. What a lot of people were saying on Twitter last night was that there were too many anecdotes from the leaders (Cameron and Clegg in particular) that started, “I recently visited a… ”.

So far in these blogs we haven’t referred to each of the leaders’ makeup. Particularly in the first debate, lots of people commented that Cameron was wearing lovely make-up, and it must be said, he did look the best out of the three of them. I don’t think Brown had very much on; he probably prefers to go for the grittier, natural man sort of look. Cameron’s chin could have done with a touch more powder – it did shine more and more as the debate progressed.

Last night, Cameron clearly won: the polls agree. He also wins our prize for best improvement. Clegg clearly won the first debate – wooing everyone with his charm and naturalness (the heir to Blair is how one Twitterer described him). The second debate had no clear winner but in the final one, Cameron pulled out all of the stops both politically and performance-wise. It will be interesting to see how the three parties do on Thursday.

William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner

UK Leaders’ Debate No. 2: It’s not what you say it’s the way that you say it!

Communication is made up of three parts: the words we use, the tonality of our voices, and our body language. We use all of these traits everyday to let the people around us know how we feel and think.  55% of our communication is through body language; approximately 38% is based on tonality of the voice and 7% on our actual words.

So with this in mind, ding ding, round 2 of the election debate, and they’re off…

David Cameron leans into the podium to show us he is ready for action his tone is slightly aggressive and his brow is knitted. He starts by using the audience members’ name, great for rapport building, whilst maintaining eye contact. The wording David chooses is reflective initially and then he uses BUT; this changes the direction of his answer, allowing him to change the subject. As the debate progresses the hand gestures, a softened fist with the thumb running along the side of the index finger conveys a middle of the road speaker. By the end of the debate David has been adopting the precision grip, hand turned upward pinching fingers together. This implies that he will attend to the smallest details and can be trusted to get it100% right.

Nick Clegg begins in an up right posture, chin in a neutral position, ready to take on the question. He begins with an anecdote about chocolate, adds a pinch of humour and then backs it up in the language of the audience with facts. The words, his tone and body language are all congruent. The hand gesture of palms facing, shoulder width apart, fingers splayed and pointed towards the audience. This is an attempt to connect with them and close the gap.

Gordon Brown starts well with a smug smile, very small hand gestures, strong-planted feet, which give him balance and make him, appear comfortable. The tone and use of language made the audience sit up. The humour card is played with Gordon comparing David and Nick to his two squabbling children. This is quickly followed up with an embracing gesture, arms out in front, drawing the audience toward him. Gordon is using this to say I will keep you safe, very fatherly, whilst influencing you to his way of thinking. The final gesture that seems to appear most frequently from Gordon is the palm down, generally associated with authority and directive behavior. A type of ‘I am in charge and that’s final’!

I hope that when you watch round 3 you will start to notice these gestures and by doing so, get a clearer picture of what is actually being said.

The fantastic thing about all the speakers is that they have been coached brilliantly! I think they will all need to pull something very interesting out of the bag for the next debate.

The poet and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “What you are doing speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you say.” Too true!

Louisa Miles
Echo Motivational & Life Coaching
www.echomotivates.com

Let’s Get The Parties Started… Etiquette in the 1st UK Political Leaders’ Debate

Last night was the first ever publicly televised General Election Debate.  The pre-debate excitement was almost unbearable, as the Nation waited with baited breath to listen to what the three main parties had to say and, most importantly, to see who would triumph as Victor of Round One.

Public speaking matters.  It should reach beyond spin and PR and show the orator’s true convictions, beliefs and aspirations.  How often nowadays do we hear politicians speak on such a stage:  in the House of Commons exchanges are often no more than spats between quarrelling children, and soundbites are absorbed by text, email, newspapers and video broadcasts.  Last night was different, we were given a chance to listen to the three men who are asking us to allow them to govern our country – for better or for worse.

Communication is a powerful tool of etiquette and is perhaps increasingly so nowadays when so much is media-driven.  Pitch of voice, tone, body language and expression form an impression, together with grooming and presentation which far exceeds the importance of content.  As the Americans say, the winner is the one who can ‘walk the talk’.

Michael Foot and Margaret Thatcher, William Hague and Winston Churchill – all are memorable for their speech content and delivery in individual ways.  Nowadays so much is about the way we look and sound – and it is easy to forget that what matters is what people say and the way in which they say it.

First impressions count.  Last night each were immaculately turned out at first glance.  Gordon’s collar was too tight, but the silk ties were well knotted, and appropriately coloured.  Always use blocks of colour and avoid vivid patterns when appearing in front of the camera.  Their hair was well tamed and cut and each looked suave – though David Cameron by far the most poised and sophisticated of the three.

David stood at the podium as a headmaster might at a public school; authoritative, wise, and approachable, though slightly nervous at the start.  Nick slightly more relaxed in stature, still smart and correct, but giving an aura of chattiness – this was the one who would appear to be our pal, moderating the other two not just in stance but by appearing to stand up for the ordinary man.  Trouble is, the Lib-Dems are always well meaning, and have some idealistic and admirable policies, but they are usually rather ‘pie in the sky’ and the costs are not easy to add up to ensure they can deliver…..

"Gordon's collar was too tight"

Gordon looked, as usual, entirely ill at ease as Alistair Stewart began, but relaxed visibly after the start gun sounded and the first heated exchange came to the fore! How this proves the value of tutoring and media coaching in an attempt to improve image.  If only it wasn’t for that false smile that he remembers to flash like a lightbulb (at least it is better than ‘Teflon Tony’s’ wide eyed grin), we would almost believe him, though after 13 years of trying to get it right and failing dismally, the pretence is wearing rather thin.  We are politically biased, but there is no disguising the fact that Gordon trotted out the same old lines, trying to convince us that he knows how to run the family budget.  However, his rhetoric was well articulated and it was persuasive – he appears to have a genuine conviction that he is right and he made it sound as though by trusting him to spend more he will get us out of this black hole – how many though are happy to have that wool pulled over their eyes?

An important tool in communication is appearing to be pleased to be there.  Our three looked sincerely happy to be on parade although, as mentioned earlier, Gordon took a little longer to warm to the theme.  It was pleasing to see that each demonstrated the basic good manners of courtesy towards their opponent – which reinforces that first impression and continues to set the tone of debate.

Nick’s delivery was ‘chatty’ all the way through.  His voice is pleasant, middle England, and easy to listen to.  He uses body language and gestures well to get his point across that he is there for us and believes in a fairer system for all.

Much will be made of David Cameron’s public school background by those who care to forget that many socialist politicians send their children to private schools to secure a better education for them.  What private school does give though is supreme confidence.  You show me a room full of people and the ones who are the most at ease with small talk and networking will be those who have attended one of our private institutions.  Pitch, tone, the ability to seek out conversational topics which appeal to those of us who are less forthcoming – that is the mark of a public school child, and David Cameron has that in spades.  His body language is good and he uses hand gestures sparingly.  Eye contact is exceptionally important and he has a confidence when looking directly at the camera. In short, Cameron looks polished and he sounds polished.  Thankfully, he has the policies now to back that up.

It was disappointing that not one member of the audience invited to ask a question had the courtesy to stand up when they spoke.  Perhaps that is indicative of the low regard in which our politicians are held, and it is very worrying if that is the case.  Only one called the three ‘Gentlemen’ and he was the only interrogator who thanked them too.  I wonder how many viewing noticed that?  Good manners begin with please, thank you and treating others as you would wish to be treated.  Let us hope next week’s audience remember that the impression they each create will be formed for the nation too!

An important final note.  Alistair Stewart, that veteran broadcaster, looked immaculate and chaired the debate in a firm and forthright fashion throughout.  There were moments when he interrupted perhaps a little too readily, but clearly things could have got out of hand if he had not been ready to intervene sooner rather than later, and all in all, he did a very good job.  Chairing a meeting or debate requires authority and the ability to listen and disseminate information rapidly.  Well done Alistair.

Our politician’s must reach out to every voter and ‘connect’ if they are to hope to command a majority in the forthcoming polls.  They must appear sincere as well as polished, and the gloss will soon wear thin if the content is not there.  Who appeared most genuine last night?

The audience at home and in the studio will have returned to their homes and perhaps analysed a little more closely what was actually said.  At that point, the content of course matters, but the memory of delivery will prevail.  That all important ‘first’ impression.

"Round one to Nick Clegg"

"Round one to Nick Clegg"

Conclusion:  Round One to Nick Clegg for overall ease of delivery and the impression that he wants to be our friend, but David Cameron wins for content – and who will you trust to have the overall ability to form the next Government?  My money is firmly on Cameron – he looks as though he will stand up to the naughty children, and the warring parents any day.

In a nutshell:  old fashioned oratory demonstrates good manners if the delivery is right.  Communication etiquette matters.

The English Manner offers training in communication etiquette, with the option of voice and media training. To find out more, please contact us.

Alexandra Messervy
Founder, The English Manner


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